Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Is Civil Society Ready to Sit at the Table with Policymakers? – New Study on Six Eastern Partnership Countries

Closing the gap between laws and procedures and their practice and implementation has long been both a thorn in the side of civil society actors, and also a challenge and a source of inspiration for citizens to hold authorities to account for their policies and actions. Examples such as the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) in Ukraine since 2014, or Electric Yerevan in Armenia in 2015, have seen civil society either taking the initiative in proposing policy reforms and drafting laws and amendments to existing legislation, or launching protests against the perceived unaccountability of government.

In all six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine), as outlined in the study, Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part One: Laws and Policies, there are "shortcomings in the clarity, effectiveness, and inclusiveness of their policy-drafting and evaluation procedures".

In the follow-up publication announced online today, Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part Two: Practice and Implementation, analysts in the six countries examine the extent to which those laws and policies are indeed applied and implemented. (The editor of both books is Jeff Lovitt, Chair of New Diplomacy.)

In the latest book, the authors first assess to what extent the statutory procedures have been followed in the policy-making cycle in recent years, and then look at a set of case studies in each country to examine in detail how participatory policy-making is working in practice. For each country, two case studies examine participation in the law-making process, and another two case studies consider civil society initiatives in policy-making. Some of the latter category include engagement in law-making processes through civil society initiatives – sometimes working to unblock particular law-making processes – while others involve more systemic initiatives to reform policies, and others amount to civil society protest movements in response to controversial decisions or unaccountable practices by public authorities.

The study includes country recommendations, a set of measures for strategic development of civil participation in decision-making in the Eastern Partnership countries, and five lessons learned:

  • High-level engagement can reap results even when participatory policymaking is not the norm 
  • Civil society needs to act quickly to avert laws that curtail freedoms, and to enlist international support
  • Sustained coalitions and campaigns to change policies and legislation build up expertise and strengthen arguments for reform
  • Adequate timeframes for review should be available for all stakeholders
  • Clear regulation providing for public participation in decision-making empowers civil society to become valued partners in inclusive policy-making

The case studies are as follows:

ARMENIA

  • Constitutional Amendments, 2013-2015
  • Law on Public Organisations, 2009-2016
  • Draft Law on Equality, 2014-2016
  • Electric Yerevan, 2015

AZERBAIJAN

  • Draft Law on the Right to Legislative Initiative of 40,000 Voting Citizens, 2012-2013
  • Law on Public Participation, 2011-2014
  • CSOs’ Participation in Formulation of the Open Government Partnership Initiative and its Action Plan for 2016-18
  • Civil Society Defence Committee, 2009-2017

BELARUS

  • Decree on Regulation of Entrepreneurial Activity, 2014
  • Draft Law on Treatment of Animals, 2015-2016
  • Revisions to Laws on Provision of Social Services 
  • Reform of Decision-Making on Environmental Impact, 2015-2016

GEORGIA

  • Amendments to the Law Concerning Constitutional Court, 2016 
  • Changes to the Election Code, 2013
  • Local Government Reform, 2012-2015
  • Reform of the Prosecutor’s Office, 2014-2015

REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA

  • Amendments to Law on Tobacco and Tobacco Products, 2012-2015
  • Amendment of the Electoral Code, 2016
  • Amendment of the “2% Law” and Adoption of Implementing Regulation, 2015-2016
  • Advocacy for the Adoption of draft Law on Social Entrepreneurship, 2013-2016

UKRAINE

  • Law on Civil Service, 2015
  • Amendments to the Tax Code, 2014-2015
  • Draft Law on Public Consultations
  • Civil Initiative Reanimation Package of Reforms

Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part Two: Practice and Implementation can be downloaded here.

The two studies are published within the Regional Project on Civil Participation in Decision Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries, carried out as part of the Partnership for Good Governance, funded by the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe, and implemented by the Council of Europe in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.


Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries – Part One: Laws and Policies can be downloaded here.

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